Medtronic spent over $960,000 lobbying on health care reform and other issues

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Medtronic Inc., the world’s largest medical device maker, spent nearly $1 million lobbying Congress in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to a recent disclosure form.

The Minneapolis-based company spent $964,000 to influence debate on the health care reform effort as well as over health-related matters.

The company lobbied on proposals that would force medical device makers to pay between $2 billion and $3 billion in fees per year to help pay for expanding health care coverage. While industry executives have complained about the fees, Democratic lawmakers point out device companies will benefit from health care reform as more patients are eligible to get their products.

The future of the overhaul is unclear following an unexpected Republican victory for a Massachusetts Senate seat last month — costing Democrats the 60th vote necessary to quickly move bills through that chamber.

The company also lobbied on efforts in Congress to make it easier for patients to sue medical device companies via personal injury lawsuits.

Medical device companies are largely shielded from patient lawsuits at the state level by a Supreme Court decision that gave federal regulators the final say in declaring a device safe or unsafe. Democrats, backed by trial lawyers and patient groups, want to overturn that decision, which they say misinterprets the law.

Medtronic lobbyists also advocated their position on a bill aimed at updating the U.S. patent system. The pharmaceutical and medical device industries have argued that reform efforts must not weaken patent protections on medical products by reducing infringement penalties. The reform effort has largely stalled in Congress.

Medtronic also lobbied on legislation that would increase the regulation of medical devices manufactured in foreign countries by charging additional user fees for FDA inspections, according to a form filed January 20 with the House clerk’s office.

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